New strategic framework shows the way for FOI learning and development in Scotland

News release: 31 October 2013

The Scottish Information Commissioner has published a strategic framework setting out how she will support FOI learning and development (L&D) in Scottish public authorities over the next three years. The "FOI Learning and Development Strategic Framework 2013 to 2016" responds to evidence from an online survey into FOI L&D practice in Scotland run earlier in the year.

The survey provided clear direction from authorities on what they wanted the Commissioner to do. The Framework captures that, and will drive the Commissioner's L&D activities over the next three years.

For example, the Framework states that the Commissioner will: promote the value of FOI amongst Scotland's public sector leaders; help authorities share their FOI resources; provide more self-assessment tools; run specialised events and explore ways to accredit learning; and provide more guidance on the Environmental Information Regulations (EIRs).

Scottish Information Commissioner Rosemary Agnew said:

"I said at the start of my tenure that, while making sound decisions is clearly of vital importance, it is by supporting public authorities to improve their FOI practice that I believe I can really make the difference during my time as Commissioner.

This is a long game and we are not going to change the world overnight. But, with the support of public authorities, we now have a clear direction in which we can travel together. I won't be able to achieve the ambitions of the Framework on my own, but I am confident we can continue as we started, working with authorities to deliver more efficient and effective FOI for Scotland."

You can view the Strategic Framework here: Our approaches


For more information contact the Commissioner's media team at 01334 464610 (07976 511752 out of hours) or email

Notes to editors

About the survey

1. An online survey of 283 Scottish public authorities was carried out between 7 December 2012 and 11 February 2013. The findings were published on 3 May 2013.

2. You can download a full copy of the report, a brief report summary and the questionnaire at: Learning and Development Survey - Report of Findings

Key survey findings

3. There is a direct link between the strategic importance afforded to FOI by senior managers and the amount and perceived usefulness of FOI L&D:

(i) 34% of respondents stated that FOI is mentioned in their strategic objectives, and 58% that it is mentioned in their performance measures.

(ii) 82% of those authorities who mention FOI in their strategic objectives also mention it in their performance objectives.

(iii) 44% of authorities mentioned FOI in their L&D plans but this almost doubles to 82% of those authorities who mention FOI in their strategic objectives.

4. Where FOI is seen as a strategic objective it is more likely to be embedded in the performance and L&D systems of an authority.

5. About 30% of respondents feel their level of FOI L&D was too little over the last three years.

6. The greatest barriers to providing FOI L&D are lack of strategic commitment (42%) and lack of resource (68%).

7. External face-to-face events and self-directed learning are the most widely used delivery methods by authorities, with individuals preferring on-the-job learning from colleagues.

8. The findings suggest a gap in knowledge about and the perceived importance of the EIRs.

About freedom of information

9. The Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 (which came into force on 1st January 2005) provides individuals with a right to receive the information held by Scottish public authorities. The Act applies to the Scottish Parliament, the Scottish Government and the NHS in Scotland, as well as all of Scotland's police forces, local authorities and universities.

10. Under FOI any written request for information must be responded to within 20 working days. Information can only be withheld where the FOI Act expressly permits it. Information can be withheld, for example, where its release would breach someone's right to privacy under data protection legislation, or where it would harm national security or an organisation's commercial interests. Even where an exemption applies, however, in many cases the Act also says that information must be released if it is in the public interest to do so.

11. There is a three-step process to requesting information. This works as follows:

(i) The request stage. An individual writes to an authority to request information. In most cases, the information will be provided first time, and there will be no need to move on to the later stages. Where information is refused, however, there is a right of appeal.

(ii) The review stage. The first stage of this right of appeal is to write to the authority asking it to review its handling of the original request. The authority has a further 20 working days to reconsider the request and respond.

(iii) The application stage. An individual can appeal to the Scottish Information Commissioner if they are still unhappy. On receipt of an appeal, the Commissioner will conduct a full investigation. If she finds that the authority has withheld information incorrectly, she can force the authority to release it. She may also uphold the authority's decision to withhold information.

About the Scottish Information Commissioner

12. The Scottish Information Commissioner is a public official appointed by Her Majesty the Queen on the nomination of the Scottish Parliament.

13. The Commissioner is responsible for promoting and enforcing Scotland's freedom of information laws.

14. The Commissioner: investigates applications and issues legally enforceable decisions; promotes good practice amongst public authorities; and provides the pubic with information on their rights.

15. The current Scottish Information Commissioner is Rosemary Agnew.

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